The “Karate Hottie” versus the “Thug” certainly has a ring to it, but for UFC fighters Michelle Waterson and Rose Namajunas the build up to their upcoming bout has been anything but manufactured.
Waterson and Namajunas were in Kansas City on Tuesday to promote the UFC Fight Night on April 15 at the Sprint Center.
The event will be broadcast live on Fox at 7 p.m. and tickets go on sale Friday. Prices range from $42-$202.
The night’s top billing will feature flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson against Wilson Reis in a five-round title fight for Johnson’s belt.
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Johnson (25-2-1 as a professional), is currently ranked the best pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC.
Two fighters with area connections will also be on the card.
Zak Cummings of Lee’s Summit-based Glory MMA and Fitness will meet Nate Coy in a welterweight bout.
Fellow Glory MMA and Fitness fighter Tim Elliott will take on Louis Smolka in a flyweight bout to open the night.
The strawweight fight between Waterson (14-4) and Namajunas (6-3) is the night’s co-main event.
Waterson, 31, has fought MMA for more than a decade. Namajunas, 24, has fought professionally since 2013.
The fighters share in and outside of the ring a healthy dose of respect for each other, uncommon in the adrenaline-packed world of MMA.
“You trade something when you get in the ring with an opponent,” Waterson said. “You give each other a part of your life that you will never be able to take back; something you can always hold on to the rest of your life.”
Waterson is an Aurora, Colo., native who now lives and trains in Albuquerque.
Her background is in karate and mixed martial arts. Her strength in the octagon is flexibility and speed.
“She is a true marital artist as well as a fighter,” Namajunas said.
Namajunas, a Denver resident by way of Milwaukee, is known in the ring for Jiu-Jitsu and her striking ability. She’s trained as a mixed martial artist since she was a teen, a fact not lost on Waterson.
“We have more similarities than differences,” Waterson said.
Namajunas and Waterson crossed passed on the grassroots MMA circuit prior to signing with UFC.
They have also in the past trained together in both New Mexico and Colorado.
“She is a great person, a great martial artist and she seems very family-oriented,” Namajunas said of Waterson. “I can kind of relate to her in that sense.”
The closest the two came to trash talking on Tuesday was a lighthearted exchange started by Namajunas after she recorded a promo video for the fight.
Waterson was briefly in another room.
When Waterson returned, Namajunas provided a summary of the message.
“I told them that Michelle didn’t shower this morning,” Namajunas said jokingly.
“You’re probably right,” she said in return.
Before, during and after the promo, there was no talk of inflicting pain: only the promise of an exciting fight.
“Rose and I are going to leave everything in the cage,” Waterson said.
Namajunas said the fight will be a great display of mixed martial arts.
“We are both very technical and well-rounded,” Namajunas said. “It’s going to be a war and it’s going to be great.”